The Real Madrid legend would have turned 90 today.
The five-time European Cup winner passed away in July 2014, but left behind an incredible legacy, and has been described by footballing greats such as Pele, Eusebio and John Charles as the most complete player in history.
It was Di Stefano’s completeness that really set him apart from the other great players of his era and in the history of the game. Trying to nail the Argentine down to just one position would be a tough task, such was the way in which he played.
Over 500 career goals for club & country/countries in less than 700 games would suggest Di Stefano was a forward, but anyone who saw the maestro play for Real Madrid in the 1950’s and 60’s would be used to seeing him come incredibly deep to get the ball, often picking up positions similar to that of a sweeper.
This was due to Di Stefano’s abilities in terms of both athleticism and as a playmaker. A natural footballer in the truest meaning of the term, there was no side of the game Di Stefano wasn’t comfortable with, and he was one of those rarest of players who you could drop into any outfield position and still be world class.
Born in Buenos Aires, Di Stefano started his career with Argentine giants River Plate. He joined the club at the age of 17, but when he was just 23 there was a footballer’s strike in Argentina, and Di Stefano left for Millonaires of Colombia. Having moved to the FIFA-exiled Colombian league along with so many notable talents of the day, Di Stefano found his next move would not come easy, still technically under contract at River Plate.
Having come incredibly close to joining Barcelona, it was eventually Real Madrid who secured Di Stefano’s services, and how different the landscape of European football could have been had he joined Real’s great rivals. Forming a formidable partnership with Ferenc Puskas in Madrid, Di Stefano went on to score 307 goals in 396 games for Real.
He ended his career with 23 team trophies to his name, including 5 consecutive European Cup’s, and 27 individual accolades, including two Ballon d’Or titles. Di Stefano represented Argentina, Colombia and Spain at international level, but sadly never graced a World Cup. He died of a heart attack in July 2014, aged 88, and tributes from the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson, Johan Cruyff and Diego Maradona poured his way.